Sunday, October 16, 2011

Snakes, er ... Cell Phones on Planes

This week's launch of the latest iteration of the popular iPhone casts light on the issue of use of such portable electronic devices ("PED") in commercial airplanes.

Use of PED's is prohibited as a matter of federal law.  The announcement airline passengers are accustomed to hearing about turning cell phones off during take-off and landing comes from the following regulation:

Prohibition on airborne operation of cellular telephones.

Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off. The following notice must be posted on or near each cellular telephone installed in any aircraft:

“The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is airborne is prohibited by FCC rules, and the violation of this rule could result in suspension of service and/or a fine. The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is on the ground is subject to FAA regulations.”

Interestingly, the law falls within the power of the Federal Communications Commission, not the Federal Aviation Administration, and has been the source of a significant legal dispute, including AT&T WirelessServices, Inc. v. FCC.

As a more practical concern, the traveling public still wonders?  Does PED usage really interrupt commercial aircraft operation? 

Indeed, there is experience-based support for the legal rule.

A recent article, together with many official and media reports, lends credence to the admonition that passengers really should obey the PED-regulation, what the likelihood or probability of airplane interference stemming from PED operation.

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